The 25th ARIA Awards have come and gone, and despite a solid effort from organisers this year to avoid the mistakes of 2010 it seems that the future of the awards shows is even murkier than before. After the ratings disaster last year it was little surprise that going into this year they had struggled to find a broadcast partner.

Channel Nine eventually rescued the show but relegated it to their digital youth station Go! which all but sealed the ratings result we’re faced with today. So how bad was it? I guess it’s all relative. The 2011 ARIA Awards averaged 369,000 viewers nationally, which is a fantastic result for a broadcast only on a digital channel but when you compare the results to previous years it looks nothing short of dire.

We thought it might be interesting to take a look at the ratings of the ARIA Awards over the last few years and compare them to another Australian awards show, The Logies. See below to see how Australian music’s night of nights held up against their television counterparts.

ARIA Awards
2011 – 369,000 (Go!)
2010 – 700,00 (Ten)
2009 – 708,000 (Nine)
2008 – 1.09 million (Ten)
2007 – Couldn’t find ratings (Ten)
2006 – 1.3 million (Ten)
2005 – 2 million (Ten)
2004 – 1.39 million (Ten)

The Logies
2011 – 1.32 million
2010 – 1.4 million
2009 – 1.65 million
2008 – 1.57 milion
2007 – 1.56 million
2006 – 2.26 million (arrivals, couldn’t find actual awards)
2005 – 1.89 million
2004 – 2.27 million

So according to our research, in 2005 the ARIA Awards was actually bigger on television than The Logies, but something happened in 2006 that sent the ratings for the ARIAs into a nosedise. Let’s take a look back at 2006 and see what we can uncover.

2006 was the year that host Axle Whitehead exposed himself on stage whilst presenting one of the awards. The incident lead to his resignation from  Channel 10, but was edited out of the broadcast before it hit everyones television screens. Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning won Best Album for his solo effort which peaked at number 1 on the album charts, and Eskimo Joe won Best Single for ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’ which peaked at number 6 on the single charts.

In fact, looking back at the nominees 2006 was the year that rock dominated. Just look at those nominated for Best Album; Augie March, Bernard Fanning, Eskimo Joe, The Sleepy Jackson, and Wolfmother. But surely a strong year from Rock N Roll and Axle Whitehead’s little pecker couldn’t kill the awards ceremony.

This year it’s clear that organisers made a deliberate attempt to offer an olive branch to the rest of the music industry in an attempt to claw back some credibility. The nominations reflected that, and those that one the awards even more so. Pop music was massacred on Sunday, but this was no coincidence.

But they couldn’t help themselves and tried and pull out some cheap star power. We can all appreciate that it’s great for a sitting Prime Minister to be present at an awards show such as this, but let’s be honest with ourselves. This was as much an attempt to get publicity for the awards as it was an attempt by the Prime Minister office to make her look cool.

ARIA will and have found out that you can’t please everyone. Also credibility and ratings rarely ever go hand in hand. In fact, if they’re going to continue to try and claw back credibility they need to get off television. Given that their cheap attempts at popularity have fallen flat, credibility seems to only route they can now take.

Whatever the reason for the continued slide in their ratings, and we could be here for hours trying to figure it out, it’s clear that the general public just doesn’t care to watch the ARIA Awards show anymore. Whether this reflects a general disengagement with recorded music or not remains to be seen. But it isn’t alone, those running The Logies must be looking on anxiously too as their ratings drop year after year, albeit at a much slower pace.

So if there isn’t a compelling reason to have the awards on television anymore how could the organisers change the format? For one, you could make it a celebration for all the industry to enjoy and not just those with deep pockets. Tickets for the music industry cost around $500 a piece, pricing it way outside the realm of financial reality for most involved in music.

How far wrong the ARIA’s have gone is only compounded by comparison to Australian indie music’s night of nights the AIR Awards, where industry are invited at no cost to a low-key ceremony that’s much more focused on the industry celebrating their achievements together than it is about grandstanding to the rest of the country. AIR this year in fact closed the ceremony off to the public in an effort to make it more intimate.

I can’t help but feel that it isn’t any wonder that many of the general public don’t watch the awards or see it as irrelevant, there is a growing discontent within the industry much to the same. Organisers will need to re-engage the general music industry if it has any hope of ever returning to its former glory.

Organisers have a whole year now to plan the next awards show, lets hope they double down and play to their strengths rather than dressing themselves up as something their not in a vain attempt at popularity. Any more attempts to show pony will only further dig the awards ceremony’s grave.